WASHINGTON, April 7, 2016 - The Senate is moving forward on a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration after Democrats and Republicans reached a deal to revive some expired tax incentives for renewable power.  

There also was hope that the deal would provide extensions of tax subsidies for biodiesel and advanced biofuels. Those incentives are set to expire at the end of this year. But Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune says the bill will likely only address the renewable energy tax credits that weren’t renewed last year. One biofuel industry representative says that work on getting their extensions renewed is just beginning.

Meanwhile today, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, is the keynote speaker at the Consumer Federation of America’s annual food policy conference.  The audience will want to know when and whether there will be a deal on GMO labeling.

Stabenow tells Agri-Pulse that she delivered some ideas to Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts for resolving the impasse on the issue. But Stabenow says there was nothing really new in what she proposed beyond what Democrats have been discussing for some time. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Paris today to co-chair a meeting of agriculture ministers representing countries that are members of OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Food policy and the ‘mom constituency.’ A leading Democratic pollster says that skepticism about farm subsidies crosses party lines, as does support for environmental incentives, reports Agri-Pulse’s Spencer Chase. 

Celinda Lake, who discussed her findings at the CFA food policy conference yesterday, says 50 percent of those polled say there should be new limits on farm subsidies. She says that 62 percent of Republicans support what she called sustainability incentives.

Her polling also shows that nearly nine out of 10 Americans support the idea that healthy food is a right, not a privilege. She says that the constituency for food policy “used to be a only farm constituency. … Now, the food constituency is a mom constituency.”

USDA defends peanut donation. USDA is catching heat for deciding to supply 500 metric tons of surplus peanuts to Haiti under the McGovern-Dole school feeding program. Critics say donating U.S. peanuts will hurt poor peanut farmers in Haiti. 

blog post by USDA announcing the plan has received dozens of comments such as this: “You are helping rich American farmers on the backs of the poor in Haiti. Just stop it.” A separate blog post by the aid group Oxfam America said USDA should instead focus on helping Haitian farmers to increase their production, something USAID is doing through its Feed the Future initiative. 

USDA denies the peanut donation will hurt Haitian farmers. In a comment filed to the original blog post, the department said that it had worked with the UN World Food Program to make sure the peanuts wouldn’t disrupt the local market. 

Peanut production in Haiti is falling in many areas, and the peanuts that are still produced are often contaminated by aflatoxin, a known carcinogen. In fact, the only factory in the country that produces peanut-based rations often has to import aflatoxin-free peanuts, USDA says. 

The donated peanuts will help feed an estimated 140,000 malnourished kids for a year.

More aid for veterans, disadvantaged farmers sought. More than 100 state and national organizations are urging congressional appropriators to increase funding for a farm bill program that assists veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers. The Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program is designed to help producers get access to USDA credit, commodity and conservation services. 

The 2014 farm bill reduced the mandatory funding by half to $10 million but authorized lawmakers to increase that to $20 million annually. The groups asking for that additional $10 million include the Farm Credit Council, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Milk Producers Federation.

White House garden tour. For readers in the nation’s capital, the White House has scheduled its spring garden tour for the weekend of April 16-17. The tour includes First Lady Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden. The National Park Service distributes tickets starting at 9 a.m. each of the two days. 

She said it. “We had a focus group of African-American moms in Chicago who were actually complaining about Michelle Obama’s agenda and saying ‘I’m not worried if my kid is walking down the street a little bit fat, I’m worried about when my kid is walking down the street and going to get shot’.” - Pollster Celinda Lake


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